Neonatal autopsies: a 10-year experience

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2000 Jan;154(1):38-42.


Objectives: To identify trends in neonatal autopsy rates at a tertiary care hospital during the last decade, to determine the concordance between antemortem and post-mortem diagnoses, and to describe patient characteristics that influenced diagnostic yield on autopsy.

Design: Retrospective review of medical records.

Setting: Tertiary care children's hospital.

Patients: All neonatal deaths between January 1, 1984, and December 31, 1993.

Main outcome measures: For those with autopsies, data included length of stay, diagnostic imaging studies, antemortem diagnoses, and autopsy findings. Autopsy diagnoses were compared with antemortem findings and classified according to concordance.

Results: Of 487 neonatal deaths, autopsies were performed in 296 (61%). The autopsy rate declined significantly during 10 years from 71.2% (1984-1988) to 47.7% (1989-1993). New diagnoses were made at autopsy in 44% of cases. Major discordancies were identified in 35 infants (12%); minor discordancies in 95 (32%). Autopsies were more likely to reveal new diagnoses in infants born at 28 to 36 weeks' gestation and in those whose mothers had no prenatal care. Major findings at autopsy were more likely in infants whose mothers had no prenatal care and in infants who died within 6 hours of birth. There was no relationship between new findings at autopsy and age, length of hospital stay, or antemortem imaging studies.

Conclusions: This study reveals a significant decline in neonatal autopsies during a 10-year period. This study also demonstrates that neonatal autopsy continues to provide clinically significant data and remains a valuable tool in perinatal medicine.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autopsy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cause of Death
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / mortality*
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / pathology
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal / statistics & numerical data
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Maternal Age
  • Prenatal Care